China has rolled out new population figures, unearthing—among a host of fresh data—some revealing information on the gender gap. The good news: China’s gender gap is shrinking. The bad news: It may not be shrinking fast enough.
According to figures released Thursday by the National Bureau of Statistics, slightly less than 51.3% of China’s population is male, falling from just above 51.6% in the year 2000. According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, the current male-female ratio is the most balanced since the country’s first national census in 1953.
The new numbers can be explained partly by government efforts to fight sex-selective abortion, which, as the state-run Global Times noted in a report last year, became something of an epidemic after China introduced the one-child policy in 1980. Although Beijing has rejected proposals to criminalize elective abortion of female fetuses, parts of China began banning the use of ultrasound to determine the sex of a fetus in the year 2000, periodically cracking down on clinics that continue to offer sex-selective abortion.
The narrowing of the gap might also have benefited from a gradual shift in favor of female children among middle class parents in larger cities, some of whom dread the expense of eventually having to pay for a son’s wedding and buy him an apartment.